Disclaimer: this is pure speculation on the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). My track record of correct predictions is pretty bad. Like the protagonist in Foucault’s Pendulum, I often find myself “clinging stubbornly to an elegant but false hypothesis.” But this is how I have fun.
Fans of the MCU already know that Phase Four was the beginning of a story arc that’s being called “The Multiverse Saga.” We know Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania will officially introduce Kang the Conqueror, the multiversal villain hinted at in Loki season 1. But what if Kang isn’t the ultimate multiversal threat?
On the eve of the release of Marvel Studios’ The Eternals, I’ll once again indulge in some speculation. I’m usually dead wrong, but in what’s become a tradition since WandaVision, I’ll own it and update this post with everything I missed. (And maybe something I got right?)
UPDATED with spoilers for Eternals
Marvel Comics’ Eternals are not the most memorable characters. They’re godlike, but with less mythic resonance than Thor and Hercules. They’re cosmic, but without the same gravitas as the Silver Surfer. They’re a found family, but without the addictive melodrama of the X-Men. The Eternals’ enemies, the Deviants, are even less interesting in the comics. Their defining trait is their envy of the Eternals.
My interest in the upcoming movie is less about the Eternals themselves, but their connections to the Marvel mythology of the Celestials–and what that means for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What I’m most excited about can be summarized in one panel.
(Implied SPOILERS for WandaVision Episode 5, and speculation for the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward.)
In 2008, when Nick Fury told Tony Stark that he’d become part of a bigger universe, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was born. It was a slow release of blockbuster movies that introduced Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, brought them together as The Avengers, and kept expanding to a network of interconnected TV and movie franchises to stand in the ranks of vast properties like Star Trek and Star Wars. As of WandaVision episode 5, it looks like Phase Four of the MCU has introduced the Multiverse, and once again, Marvel’s presence on the big and small screens has expanded again.
Assuming Marvel Studios builds an in-house continuity for the X-Men and the Fantastic Four–and I hope they do, instead of importing it from the Fox movies–it feels like it’s time for the MCU to shift its focus off the Avengers. Captain America is old, and has lived a full life. Iron Man, the Black Widow, and (through tragic real-world circumstances) the Black Panther are dead. The Hulk’s days of two-fisted smashing are done. There are still Avengers, but Marvel Studios is giving them the small-screen treatment. It’s time for some new players filling out the blockbuster and tentpole movie schedule. And it should all build on what the MCU has already established.
SPOILERS for the Marvel Studios universe up through WandaVision Episode 5, and speculation beyond.
The Joy of a Slow Watch
I’ve been starved for new live-action Marvel Studios programming taking place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the parallel quantum universe without the coronavirus pandemic, I would have already seen Black Widow, Eternals, and Shang-Chi by now. Instead, I get 30 minutes every Friday of WandaVision.
And I love it.
In an era where so much is available online, and entire seasons are released to be binge-watched, I love having to wait. Each episode, questions are answered but deeper questions are uncovered. And I have a week to speculate on the answers. This might be the most enjoyable thing about being in a slow-release fandom, and the reason why many of us loathe spoilers. We are forced to engage with open questions in a story with only our own imaginations and that of our friends. We become active participants in the storytelling process, not just passive consumers. Being a fan of a shared universe becomes an intellectual exercise, where there is a potential thrill both in having guessed right and in being surprised.
The end of WandaVision episode 5 took it to a new level.